When her middle child Tommie was born, he had to spend 3 weeks in a special care nursey receiving lifesaving medical treatment. Inspired by the incredible parents they met there, and the level of care provided to these families and their sick babies, Charmaine Riley knew she wanted to give back somehow. At Riley & Co Kids, she has curated a beautiful collection of printed muslin swaddles, with each captivating print named after a very special NICU or SCN baby. Every design shares a baby’s incredible journey of courage, strength, and bravery, along with their family’s love and support. With 5% of a customer’s order donated directly to NICUs and SCNs around Australia, you are supporting our littlest humans in their time of need, helping them to have the best possible start in life. Here, Charmaine talks to The Natural Parent Magazine about the passion behind Riley & Co Kids, the challenges she has overcome, and her hopes and dreams for the future.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
Not so much a ‘what’ but a ‘who’. In January 2020, my middle child Tommie was hospitalised with neonatal sepsis when he was only 3 weeks old. He spent 3 weeks in a special care nursery (SCN) receiving lifesaving medical treatment. During the hospital stay, I met other incredible parents and families. Even though the medical care was second to none, I noticed equipment, such as electronic breast pumps, were either outdated or limited. There were also no feeding pillows for mothers (or fathers) to feed their babies, forcing them to use whatever they could like folded blankets.
When Tommie was discharged, I started researching if other special care nurseries and neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) had similar issues. I spoke with many parents of NICU and SCN babies and discovered that no NICU or SCN is equal, but they all needed something and that is when I had a light bulb moment! I wanted to give back to the very community that saved Tommie’s life.
In May 2020, Riley & Co Kids was created. I designed and had manufactured a beautiful collection of newborn knot gowns with matching headwear, with the intention of donating a portion of sales directly to NICUs and SCNs around Australia. The knot gown collection was launched in August 2021 but unfortunately, they did not sell as expected.
So, in February 2022, I made the decision to change business direction. I manufactured a gorgeous collection of premium quality printed muslin swaddles. Each captivating print is named after a very special NICU or SCU bubba, past or present, sharing not only their namesakes’ incredible journey of courage, strength and bravery but the families’ unconditional love. I’m now able to donate 5% of a customer’s order value directly to NICUs and SCNs to help support our littlest humans in their time of need.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
In the beginning, I was naïve. I knew it would be difficult starting a new business from scratch, but I thought how hard can it really be? I mean I’ve managed successful businesses before, admittingly in a totally different industry, but successful none the less. So, nothing prepared me for just how tough it would be. For how hard I would have to work to make it a success, especially being in a saturated market.
So, I initially invested $25,000 into the start-up. This covered tech packs of the knot gown design, branding, logo design, product samples, manufacturing costs, shipping, professional product photography, website design and of course apps to use for social media content. Little did I know at the time, my knot gowns and matching headwear wouldn’t be the success I hoped for and just how much time, commitment and hard work I’d have to put in to ensure I made my money back for them so I could reinvest in a more viable product.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
My biggest breakthrough was the moment I realised I had not just built an e-commerce store but a community of mums wanting to support my brand and my vision. It was truly an incredible moment for me, a proud moment. I created something that mums and parents alike want to be a part of, and that to me is everything. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the love and support of my community.